worthless and empty

Baseball has begun. Although it did not start well for my beloved boys on the south side of Chicago it is a sign that the winds of the sports world are changing. Hockey is getting ready to begin its second season. Basketball goes into hibernation. Football is starting to bounce its leg in anticipation of summer. Things are changing, one sport giving way to another. It can be refreshing, provided you enjoy sports, or it can be annoying. All the random statuses and complaints about this or that. Maybe that just isn’t your cup of tea, but it doesn’t need to be. Seasons change, one gives way to another. That is how life works, whether we like it or not. 

The same is true in the Church, the season of Lent has given way to Easter. The utter lack of free time is exchanged for a night binge watching what was missed for weeks. But it isn’t just in the calendar of the church year that one thing gives way to another. This happens to theologians like myself who often think more of themselves and their ideas than they ought. One problem to consider gives way to another. One emphasis traded for a different one. Inevitably one falls off the horse. Is it doctrine or practice? What should be our focus? Truth or love, as if those two were antithetical. Traditional or Contemporary, as if both weren’t liturgical. Confession or mission, as if the two could ever be separated. Theologians complicate things. Sometimes for good, sometimes for ill. But truth and love cannot exist in opposition to one another, doctrine and practice cannot be torn asunder, confession robbed of mission is worthless and mission robbed of confession is empty. 

We don’t get to pick and choose. We don’t get to be selective. We also do not get to run to the fire escape of paradox as a way to short circuit the discussion. Issues in the church are real. But the church does not feed on issues, it does not speak to issues, it feeds on and confesses Christ crucified. Speaking of the parable of the Return of the Unclean Spirit in Matthew 12:43-45 Martin Franzmann wrote something worthing reading and remembering today. The church is rooted and built up in Christ and his Gospel, his life and salvation, not in the clean house of Satan…  

“Man is never so vulnerable, never so wide open to the powers of evil, as when he as been touched by teh divine without submitting to it. Any selectivity over against the revelation of God is a misuse and a perversion of that revelation; and that destroys a man. God is not mocked. The root of this revolt against God grows in every man; our generation is no exception. The twentieth-century church has an impressive array of selective skills at her disposal, and she uses them with amazing nonchalance. She seems to be unaware of the fact that every gap left by the excision or the suppression or the distortion of the true revelation of God inevitably invites the intrusion of the false and the satanic and becomes the matrix of pseudo revelation. Whether the Christ is overlaid by Mariolatry or is stripped bare by critical operations, the guilt and the effect are the same: the empty, swept, and furbished house is wide open to the homesick hosts of Satan.” — Martin Franzmann, Follow Me: Discipleship According to Matthew (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1961), 106.

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